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Christina and James met in college and have been dating for more than five years. For the past two years, they have been living together in a condo they purchased tly. While Christina and James were confident in their decision to enter into a commitment such as a year mortgagethey are unsure if they want to enter into marriage.

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The couple had many discussions about marriage and decided that it just did not seem necessary. Was it not only a piece of paper? Did not half of all marriages end in divorce? Neither Christina nor James had seen much success with marriage while growing up. Christina was raised by a single mother.

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Her parents never married, and her father has had little contact with the family since she was a toddler. Christina and her mother lived with her maternal grandmother, who often served as a surrogate parent. James grew up in a two-parent household until age seven, when his parents divorced. He lived with his mother for a few years, and then later with his mother and her boyfriend until he left for college. James remained close with his father who remarried and had a baby with his new wife.

Recently, Christina and James have been thinking about having children and the subject of marriage has resurfaced. Christina likes the idea of her children growing up in a traditional family, while James is concerned about possible marital problems down the road and negative consequences for the children should that occur. Despite having been divorced and having a live-in boyfriend of 15 years, she believes that children are better off when their parents are married.

Cohabitating, but unwed, couples for Some may never choose to wed Jayson, With fewer couples marrying, the traditional Canadian family structure is becoming less common. Marriage and family are key structures in most societies. While the two institutions have historically been closely linked in Canadian culture, their connection is becoming more complex. The relationship between marriage and family is often taken for granted in the popular imagination but with the increasing diversity of family forms in the 21st century their relationship needs to be reexamined.

What is marriage? Different people define it in different ways. Not even sociologists are able to agree on a single meaning.

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For our purposes, we will define marriage as a legally recognized social contract between two people, traditionally based on a sexual relationship, and implying a permanence of the union. In creating an inclusive definition, we should also consider variations, such as whether a formal legal union is required think of common-law marriage and its equivalentsor whether more than two people can be involved consider polygamy.

Other variations on the definition of marriage might include whether spouses are of opposite sexes or the same sex, and how one of the traditional expectations of marriage to produce children is understood today. Sociologists are interested in the relationship between the institution of marriage and the institution of family because, historically, marriages are what create a family, and families are the most basic social unit upon which society is built.

Both marriage and family create status roles that are sanctioned by society. So what is a family? A husband, a wife, and two children — maybe even a pet — served as the model for the traditional Canadian family for most of the 20th century. But what about families that deviate from this model, such as a single-parent household or a homosexual couple without children?

Should they be considered families as well? The question of what constitutes a family is a prime area of debate in family sociology, as well as in politics and religion. Sociologists, on the other hand, tend to define family more in terms of the manner in which members relate to one another than on a strict configuration of status roles. Here, we will define family as a socially recognized group ed by blood relations, marriage, or adoption, that forms an emotional connection and serves as an economic unit of society.

Sociologists also identify different types of families based on how one enters into them. A family of orientation refers to the family into which a person is born.

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A family of procreation describes one that is formed through marriage. These distinctions have cultural ificance related to issues of lineage the difference between patrilineal and matrilineal descent for example. However, the forms that families take are not random; rather, these forms are determined by cultural traditions, social structures, economic pressures, and historical transformations. In these debates, sociology demonstrates its practical side as a discipline that is capable of providing the factual knowledge needed to make evidence-based decisions on political and moral issues concerning the family.

The family is an excellent example of an institution that can be examined at the micro- meso- and macro- levels of analysis. For example, the debate between functionalist and critical sociologists on the rise of non-nuclear family forms is a macro-level debate. It focuses on the family in relationship to a society as a whole. Since the s, the functionalist approach to the family has emphasized the importance of the nuclear family — a cohabiting man and woman who maintain a socially approved sexual relationship and have at least one child — as the basic unit of an orderly and functional society.

On the other hand, critical perspectives emphasize the inequalities and power relations within the family and their relationship to inequality in the wider society.

Chapter marriage and family

In the critical perspective, the nuclear family should be thought of less as a normative model for how families should be and more as an historical anomaly that reflected the specific social and economic conditions of the two decades following the Second World War. These are analyses that set out to understand the family within the context of macro-level processes or society as a whole.

At the meso-level, the sociology of mate selection and marital satisfaction reveal the various ways in which the dynamics of the group, or the family form itself, act upon the desire, preferences, and choices of individual actors. At the meso-level, sociologists are concerned with the interactions within groups where multiple social roles interact simultaneously. Similarly, it is possible to speak of the life cycle of marriages independently of the specific individuals involved.

This area of study is another meso-level analysis. Marital dissatisfaction and divorce peak in the 5th year of marriage and again between the 15th and 20th years of marriage. The presence or absence of children in the home also affects marital satisfaction — nonparents and parents whose children have left home have the highest level of marital satisfaction. Thus, the family form itself appears to have built-in qualities or dynamics regardless of the personalities or specific qualities of family members.

At the micro-level of analysis, sociologists focus on the dynamics between individuals within families. One example, of which probably every married couple is acutely aware, is the interactive dynamic described by exchange theory. How do they weigh up who is contributing more, and who is contributing less, of the valuable resources that sustain the marriage relationship such as money, time, chores, emotional support, romantic gestures, quality time, etc. What happens to the family dynamic when one spouse is a net debtor and another a net creditor in the exchange relationship?

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In The Unbearable Lightness of Beingthe Czech novelist Milan Kundera describes the way every relationship forges an implicit contract regarding these exchanges within the first 6 weeks. It is as if a template has been established that will govern the nature of the conflicts, tensions, and disagreements between a married couple for the duration of their relationship. Afterwards, it acts as a structure that constrains their interaction.

In the more severe cases of unequal exchange, domestic violence, whether physical or emotional, can be the result.

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One of the most notable changes has been the increasing of mothers who work outside the home. Earlier in Canadian society, most family households consisted of one parent working outside the home and the other being the primary child care provider.

Because of traditional gender roles and family structures, this was typically a working father and a stay-at-home mom. In Sociologists interested in this topic might approach its study from a variety of angles. How is socialized differently when raised largely by care provider rather than a parent? Do early experiences in a school-like child care setting lead to improved academic performance later in life?

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How does with two working parents perceive gender roles compared to raised with a stay-at-home parent? Another sociologist might be interested in the increase in working mothers from an economic perspective.

Why do so many households today have dual incomes? Has this changed the income of families substantially? What impact does the larger economy play in the economic conditions of an individual household? Do people view money — savings, spending, debt — differently than they have in the past? Has the increase in working mothers shifted traditional family responsibilities onto schools, such as providing lunch and even breakfast for students? How does the creation of after-school care programs shift resources away from traditional school programs?

What would the effect be of providing a universal, subsidized child care program on the ability of women to pursue uninterrupted careers? As these examples show, sociologists study many real-world topics. Their research often influences social policies and political issues. from sociological studies on this topic might play a role in developing federal policies like the Employment Insurance maternity and parental benefits program, or they might bolster the efforts of an advocacy group striving to reduce social stigmas placed on stay-at-home d, or they might help governments determine how to best allocate funding for education.

Throughout most of history, erotic love or romantic love was not considered a suitable basis for marriage. Marriages were typically arranged by families through negotiations deed to increase wealth, property, or prestige, establish ties, or gain political advantages.

In modern individualistic societies on the other hand, romantic love is seen as the essential basis for marriage. Despite the emphasis on romantic love, it is also recognized to be an unstable basis for long-term relationships as the feelings associated with it are transitory. What exactly is romantic love?

Neuroscience describes it as one of the central brain systems that have evolved to ensure mating, reproduction, and the perpetuation of the species Fisher, It manifests as a seemingly involuntary, passionate longing for another person in which individuals experience obsessiveness, craving, loss of appetite, possessiveness, anxiety, and compulsive, intrusive thoughts. In this respect, romantic love shares many physiological features in common with addiction and addictive behaviours.

In a sociological context, the physiological manifestations of romantic love are associated with a of social factors. Love itself might be described as the general force of attraction that draws people together; a principle agency that enables society to exist. Fromm argues therefore that love can take many forms: brotherly love, the sense of care for another human; motherly love, the unconditional love of a mother for ; erotic love, the desire for complete fusion with another person; self-love, the ability to affirm and accept oneself; and love of God, a sense of universal belonging or union with a higher or sacred order.

Only when the object of love is individualized in another, does it come to form the basis of erotic or intimate relationships. In this sense, romantic love can be defined as the desire for emotional union with another person Fisher, The three components vary independently in long term relationships: passion starts off at high levels but drops off as the partner no longer has the same arousal value, intimacy decreases gradually as the relationship becomes more predictable, while commitment increases gradually at first, then more rapidly as the relationship intensifies, and eventually levels off.

This suggests that for couples who remain together, romantic love eventually develops into companionate love characterized by deep friendship, comfortable companionship, and shared interests, but not necessarily intense attraction or sexual desire.

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